Moor House to Upper Teesdale IPA
Location: In the North Pennines, east of the M6, with the A69 to its north and the A66 to its south.
Grid Reference: NY 732 336
With some of our best wildflower meadows, England’s largest juniper forest and some fabulously rare flowers found nowhere else in the UK, it’s no surprise that this is one of the top 5 places for wild plants in Britain.
Teesdale is a real jewel in our floral crown. A Mecca for all botanists and wildflower lovers, nowhere else in Britain can boast such a diversity of rare habitats and outstanding plants in one location. Key to this richness are the layers of Carboniferous limestone that underpin this area combined with the legacy of the Ice Age, which left behind both a rocky upland landscape and some wonderful arctic-alpine flowers that have survived ever since.
The tops of some of the highest hills are formed from sugar limestone, a type of heated limestone that looks like solid sugar when broken and which is found in just two places in the UK. These high fells are therefore blanketed with flower-rich limestone grassland. The wealth of rarities found here are almost too long to list, but include hoary rock-rose (a form found only here), Teesdale violet, bird's-eye primrose, spring gentian (with its startling large blue flowers), alpine bartsia, spring sandwort, Scottish asphodel and marsh saxifrage. Teesdale sandwort is another flower found here and nowhere else in Britain.
Where the limestone outcrops along the Pennine escarpment and around the summits of hills, other special plants shelter in the rock crevices, including green spleenwort and brittle bladder-fern together with rarer plants like hoary whitlowgrass, alpine cinquefoil and holly-fern.
Flower-rich upland hay meadows are amongst the rarest habitats in Britain and this area contains some of the best. Hay meadows support rare flowers such as globeflower and unique species of lady's mantle found nowhere else in the world. But the real joy comes from the sheer exuberance and diversity of species. The very richest hay meadows contain over 30 species within arms-reach, with up to 120 species per field. Typical flowers include wood crane's-bill, great burnet, bistort, pignut, wood anemone, bugle, marsh hawk's-beard, orchids and yellow rattle.
In other areas, limestone doesn’t come to the surface and expanses of blanket bog cover extensive areas of plateau and gentle slopes. A typical tract of such bog contains cross-leaved heath, hair's-tail cottongrass, bilberry, common cottongrass, cloudberry, deergrass, crowberry and bog asphodel, as well as many species of peat-building sphagnum moss. Heather is also a feature of the high level fells which, when it flowers in August, turns the hills into a bright haze of purple.
Upper Teesdale is also home to the largest juniper wood in England, and the second largest in the UK. Many of the ancient trees here take on Tolkeinesque forms, with beautifully twisted and knarled trunks. Some of them growing in the shadow of High Force are estimated to be about 250 years old.